USMNT grinds win vs. El Salvador in Concacaf Nations League

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The United States men’s national team is semifinal bound.

The Stars and Stripes beat El Salvador 1-0 on Monday in Matchday 6 of the Concacaf Nations League, sealing their placement atop Group D and a spot in the semifinals of the competition.

El Salvador held its own in the first half and generated the first save of the game when Matt Turner was forced into a dive in just the second minute.

It took the U.S. into the mid-20-minute mark to pin La Selecta deep and sustain pressure. Shots were a little difficult to come by, but Gio Reyna drew gasps with a long-distance strike in the 29th minute that drifted just wide left.

Weston McKennie then had a chance in the third minute of added time when Christian Pulisic delivered a free kick from the right half-space to the left back post, but McKennie’s open header flew wide right and off target. 

The U.S. controlled 58% possession at the break, but its two shots on target on six total never quite threatened goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez.

Then the USMNT completely commanded the early stages of the second half, which extended until the end of the game. Reyna, McKennie and new commit Alejandro Zendejas were all creating chances, but the first and lone goal of the game didn’t arrive until the 62nd minute.

Ricardo Pepi, who had just come off the bench two minutes prior for starting striker Daryl Dike, made a well-timed run down the right half-space and McKennie found him with a precise through ball. Pepi held off a challenge from left center-back Roberto Dominguez and coolly chipped Gonzalez to open the scoring.

Pepi had a few more opportunities afterwards, with the best coming in the 85th minute. He brought down a high cross from the right flank with the tip of his left foot, then struck it on the way down with the same boot. Gonzalez, however, reacted well to keep it out.

In the end, the U.S. had 16 shots with four on target to El Salvador’s four with none challenging Turner in front of goal. 

The win sees the U.S. join Mexico in the 2023 Concacaf Nations League semifinals slated for Thursday, June 15. Panama and Canada – the current leaders in Group B and C, respectively – are hoping to join the two nations after its final group games on Tuesday.

The final – and third-place game – is set for Sunday, June 18.

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